Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: Right Behind You by Gail Giles


When he was nine, Kip set another child on fire. Now, after years in a juvenile ward, he is ready for a fresh start. But the ghosts of his past soon demand justice, and he must reveal his painful secret. How can Kip tell anyone that he really is--or was--a murderer?


A gutting and distinctive premise combined with a strong YA voice mixed with potent writing make Right Behind You a visceral read. This book is a perfect example of the gray areas often overlooked in any violent act, something that seems on the surface horrible and the blame easy to place. Giles does a remarkable job twisting the situation, spotlighting how there are often two victims rather than one in any violent crime.

Kip remembers setting Bobby Clark on fire when he was just nine. He remembers the events leading up to the act and he remembers exactly what triggered it. On the surface, jealousy over Bobby’s new baseball glove. Lurking deeper, a myriad of emotions and reasons that carry far past the basic act of dousing gasoline on a seven year old boy and throwing a lighter on him. Kip is a child on a very destructive path, one that keeps him in a state mental ward of juvenile offenders for four years. Unable to look past his own self hatred, bitterness and guilt, the reader starts the book wondering if Kip will find a way to make it past things. Yet, he does, soon transforming into Wade Madison in an effort to keep his sordid past hidden. With a chance to start over in a new state, it seems as though things will be alright.

Kip’s dad is another arresting part of this book, a father who’s been wrecked a few times but still pushes on. His interactions with Wade are not ones of hatred but of love, a level of emotion that is consuming at times. Carrie is equally as empowering, accepting Kip despite his past and loving him easily as her own son. Though she came into the picture after the fire, Carrie maintains a strong role throughout the book and is as memorable as Kip and his father.

Despite having a new name, Kip is still prominent, holding the strings for much of Wade’s actions. His thoughts and motivations are wrenching and breaking, coming across smoothly throughout the novel. There is no lack of a connection between Wade and the reader, forged early on as the events of the fire, his subsequent comatose state then rehab are portrayed. The book is divided into three sections, each one marking a different part of Wade’s life and recovery. Throughout the book, the overall mental voice and character remain, shifting subtly as Wade changes.

The plot is one of character development and understanding, an interesting twist on a coming of age type of story. The situations Wade finds himself in are played out very reasonably for the set up, particularly of a teenage boy who has been institutionalized for years and is now trying to hide it. His continued self destruction is hard to read but understandable, further strengthening the sympathy and emotion towards him.

A bold story line, stunning writing, and striking characters combine to make Right Behind You a quick but well worth it and emotional read. This is a book that will challenge a situation deemed on the surface as easy to interpret. The continued ramifications of Kip’s actions, even years down the road, appear throughout the book, cropping up at unexpected times but maintaining a constant state of remembrance. Overall, this is a powerful book about a boy whose biggest enemy is himself.

Source: Library
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 311 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (November 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316166375
ISBN-13: 978-0316166379

Author's Website


  1. This sounds interesting. And a book that would appeal to boys. I really like the cover. The matchbook with the photo really captures my eye.

  2. this sounds like a powerful book. lovely review!

  3. What an intriguing idea for a book! The summary definitely hooked me, and your clinched the deal. Thanks!

  4. I normally wouldnt pick this up but after reading WOW sounds amazing

  5. Wow what an amazing sounding book. I love the way you described the three parts and the and the subtle changes of the mental voice. Great review of a book I will definitely be looking to read

  6. I might just pick up this book after this review.

    Oh, hi! I am a new follower and I just happened to stumble across your blog. I look forward to reading more of your future reviews.

    Write on!

  7. i have read this book myself and i can safely say that this is the best book that i have ever read. it gripped my from start to finish. a fantastic read!